Voter education emphasized as deadline approaches

July 31, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Elections administrators used the last days before the Aug. 7 primary to remind voters to follow proper ballot instructions.

Otherwise, administrators warned, improperly signed or postmarked ballots might not be counted.

On the Web

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What to know

King County Elections mailed ballots to voters in late July. Track ballots online at the King County Elections website, Follow the “Ballot tracker” link to check on your ballot.

Voters can return completed ballots at a drop box or through the mail. Mailed ballots require a 45-cent first-class stamp. Ballots must be postmarked by Aug. 7.

The elections office opened a ballot drop box at Issaquah City Hall, 130 E. Sunset Way. The ballot drop box in Issaquah and other locations countywide remain open until 8 p.m. Aug. 7.

Elections administrators opened accessible voting centers for disabled voters to cast ballots independently and privately at the following locations:

Bellevue City Hall

  • 450 110th Ave. N.E.
  • Open: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug 3, 4, 6; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 7

King County Elections

  • Open: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through Aug. 6; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 7
  • 919 S.W. Grady Way, Renton

Find a complete list of ballot drop boxes, ballot drop-off vans and accessible voting centers at the King County Elections website.

“Following the instructions and returning ballots as early as possible helps us process ballots efficiently and provides time to resolve any issues that may occur with voters’ signatures,” Elections Director Sherril Huff said in a statement.

King County Elections mailed about 1.1 million ballots July 18 for the Aug. 7 primary.

The summer primary — bumped up to accommodate military and overseas voters — allows local voters a chance to decide a property tax measure and cull the field in federal, judicial, legislative and statewide contests.

The electorate selects the top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation, in the all-mail primary election. The top vote recipients then advance to an all-mail general election Nov. 6.

In the Issaquah area, voters must select the top candidates for state House of Representatives and U.S. House of Representatives seats, in addition to selecting hopefuls for judicial and statewide posts.

The ballot also contains a $200 million King County property tax measure to fund a juvenile justice center, Proposition 1.

In the run-up to Election Day, officials embarked on a star-studded campaign to educate voters about the ballot process.

Local elections administrators enlisted renowned chef Tom Douglas, travel guru Rick Steves, Seattle Storm players and other local celebrities to remind voters to follow ballot instructions.

Campaign encompasses ballot basics

The elections departments in King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties, plus the Office of the Secretary of State, collaborated on the voter education project.

Under state law, elections staffers cannot open and process a ballot unless the signature on the return envelope matches the signature on a voter’s registration.

Often, elections staffers cannot process some ballots because the voters returned the ballots too late or failed to sign the declaration on the return envelope.

Crews could not open about 2,000 ballots from the August 2011 primary due to missing signatures.

“I’m happy to pitch in to help — if my voice in a message helps more votes get counted and saves some of our taxpayer dollars for other things, we all win!” Douglas said in a statement.

Douglas and other celebrities involved in the campaign agreed to donate time for the effort. Funding for the program comes from the county elections offices and the Office of the Secretary of State. Plans call for additional celebrities to join the education campaign as the November general election nears.

The campaign includes radio, TV and online advertisements to remind voters to sign return ballot envelopes, return ballots on time and follow other important instructions.

“Using celebrities to help deliver our message is a strategy that we think will help us connect with more voters,” Huff said.

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